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  Who Done It? Spy GameBuy this film here.
Year: 1956
Director: Basil Dearden
Stars: Benny Hill, Belinda Lee, David Kossoff, Garry Marsh, George Margo, Ernest Thesiger, Denis Schaw, Frederick Schiller, Jeremy Hawk, Thorley Walters, Philip Stainton, Warwick Ashton, Stratford Johns, Peter Bull, Nicholas Phipps, Charles Hawtrey, Irene Handl
Genre: Comedy, Thriller
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hugo Dill (Benny Hill) is a sweeper at the local ice rink where he assists in the shows there, but his heart isn't in his job. What he'd really like to be doing is private detection, like in the mystery magazines and paperbacks he loves to read, and tonight he has a stroke of luck when an employee of one of the magazines arrives with a prize he was won. However, with every silver lining there's a cloud as tonight he also becomes unemployed due to the prize being a bloodhound that chases him up a prop tree, which he ends up being wheeled onto the ice in alongside showgirl Frankie (Belinda Lee): pandemonium ensues.

Not to be confused with the Bud Abbott and Lou Costello film of the same name, one of the last Ealing comedies was the first ever film for its star, future global phenomenon Benny Hill. Hill was best suited to his television sketch comedies, and rarely ventured into cinematic endeavours much less take the leading role, but all told this was a pretty good attempt, at least the equal of say, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise's big screen efforts if not better. It had the benefit of being written by T.E.B. Clarke, Ealing's resident man for comedy, and while this wasn't up there with his masterpiece The Lavender Hill Mob, it wasn't bad either.

One of the film's strengths is a willing cast, full of recognisable faces with some only appearing in bit parts, such as Charles Hawtrey as a frustrated disc jockey or Irene Handl (who would later share the screen with Hill in The Italian Job) putting on her posh voice as a well-to-do housewife. Also of interest is Belinda Lee as Hill's romantic lead Frankie, a talented beauty who was often relegated to decorative roles up until her untimely death in a car crash aged just twenty-five. Here she proves more than a match for the comedian as a super-strong variety performer who thinks her talents will put men off her so tries to hide them.

The plot sees Hugo embroiled with a scheme to smuggle top secret plans on microfilm, headed by Uralians who sound like something out of Star Trek but are actually substitute Soviets led by Zacco (David Kossoff). Hugo takes the offices of a showbiz agent who is moving elsewhere, but mistakenly tries out the job of following another agent, who the thinks is an adulterous husband. He hangs around outside the man's house, and is noticed by the Uralians in the building opposite who after some further misunderstandings hire Hugo to impersonate one of their scientists at a sabotaged demonstration of a weather machine. Mainly this is an excuse to have Hill cause as much mayhem as possible, and while it's ludicrously contrived it's also bright and fun and goes some way to showing Hill to his advantage as his cheeky persona was already well on the way to being perfected here. Music by Philip Green.

[Optimum's Region 2 DVD has no special features, but Hill fans will be happy with seeing this early example of his work.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Basil Dearden  (1911 - 1971)

Dependable British director who began his film career working on Will Hay comedies like My Learned Friend, then moved onto a range of drama and comedy: a segment of classic horror Dead of Night, important crime film The Blue Lamp, The Smallest Show on Earth, excellent heist story The League of Gentlemen, social issues film Victim, action spectaculars Khartoum and The Assassination Bureau and quirky horror The Man Who Haunted Himself. Sadly, Dearden died in a car crash.

 
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